I would be indisposed to engage in any argument whatsoever with anyone who contends that Karma may have gotten the best of us in our electoral strides since after General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida betrayed every logic, threw caution to the winds and annulled the only election which until this day is adjudged to be the freest and fairest election ever conducted in our chequered history under the watch of good Professor Humphrey Nwosu of the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC). Were The result of that election to be respected, it would have paved the way for the late business mogul and philanthropist, Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO) of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) to be the president way back in 1993, but that was not to come by- no thanks to the parochial interest of one man.
That singular act of one man has led to the phrase “June 12” being a very popular one in the media circles but even more regrettably, has indirectly continued to be the bane of our electoral proficiency. And why not? Does not the Good Book say that we shall reap what we sow? Our leaders sowed a bad electoral seed in the past and until this day; we continue to reap from it. They set a bad electoral precedent and it has continued to be binding on us even into our contemporary electoral voyage. And the man/men who brought us to the quicksand we are today muddled up in, we have foolishly elevated to the position of Elder Statesman/men. That is the way things work in my country. Anyway, that will be a topic for another day’s discussion but let us quickly get down to the business of the day.
The habitual lame performances of the leadership of INEC from its first Chairman Justice Ephraim Omorose Akpata, to that of his successor Abel Guobadia down to Professor Maurice Iwu and now, Professor Attahiru Jega who currently holds sway there, is one that leaves you wondering whether the body is designed by default to conduct elections that are fraught with irregularities and which in many cases, hardly reflect the demands of the electorates in aberration of the norms of democracy.
While Justice Akpata, midwifed the election that gave birth to the presidency of General Olusegun Obasanjo at the center at the dawn of democracy in 1998/1999, Professor Abel Guobadia his successor oversaw the subsequent 2003 gubernatorial and presidential elections that were marred by widespread electoral fraud and peccadilloes. When the latter bowed out, little did we know that we were just getting started with electoral misadventure until Professor Maurice Iwu whom many has labeled as Nigeria’s electoral nightmare came into the picture and committed even more blunder as he took over leadership of the electoral body. Till this day, He has gone down in history as the Man who conducted one of Nigeria’s most controversial elections. The indigene of Ehime Mbano in Imo state has capped a chapter for himself in our history books as being the first man to conduct an election where the President it brought into power- Umar Musa Yar’Adua publicly confessed upon accession to the seat of power that the electoral process that brought him into office was no doubt a defective one and thus made the Rule of Law as one of the articles of his then “Seven Point Agenda”. The controversy and national upheaval of his leadership, led to his being removed from office in April 2010 leading to the appointment of the handsome Professor Attahiru Jega who now sits in the middle of the morass.
We had thought he will turn a new leaf and return sanity to our electoral laws and process by being different from his predecessors, little wonder he received all our support and commendation. The widespread approval his appointment received upped our hopes and made us ease a sigh of relief that at last our days of electoral golgotha are gone. We had thought he would blaze a trail and depart from the old way of doing things that was almost becoming the norm of our electoral process but what we got was a slap in the face.
His first official test soon came-2011, but at the end of the day, we could not differentiate from our past and the present. We acted like the Biblical Israelites in the wilderness under Moses after they have crossed the Red Sea, and queried as to why we were salvaged from the hands of the previous leadership of INEC. Some of us even preferred the days of Iwu and his predecessors. The series of postponement and re-postponement of elections, late arrival of sensitive materials and other logistic problems that became of the elections, was enough to prove to us, that we have barely deviated from the ways of the past.
When Edo and Ondo state indigenes went to the polls in recent past, the same script continued to play out un-edited. And after each flaw, what we got were series of promises and assurances that the next elections will be better. Characteristic of Nigerians, we believed (not as if we had got options) and hoped for better days ahead. But with the recent developments in Anambra state, I don’t think the good days are anywhere around the corner. Not with what we have seen over the years. Question then is: INEC, why this consistent inconsistency? Is it by design or default? Does Karma truly have a hand in our continuous electoral misfortunes? Or are the ‘powers that be’ behind playing the piper and dictating the tune which INEC and its officials must dance to? Whichever it may be, INEC owe us a great deal of explanation as what we have been getting is hardly what we bargained for.
I had expected that the Anambra elections will offer us the template with which we shall be approaching the bigger storm-2015 general elections. I, like many Anambrarians out there, had hoped that things will be done just right in this particular election. Perhaps because our state of origin was about to be tested democratically and despite having my preferred candidate as with every other person out there, my only prayer was that the whole process should be free and fair and let the most preferred candidate emerge through the instrument of the ballot true to the canons of every democratic process. And so we waited with all enthusiasm for the D-Day, and when it finally came, the fun lasted for only few hours, before INEC bared their fangs and proved that it is yet to learn from its past mistakes. How many times must a person be a victim of snake-bite before they learn not to pitch their tents in swampy areas? What joy does the body gain from breaking our hearts and denting the reputation of our nascent democracy in the international scene? In all earnesty, their performances are way below average and we are already fatigued by it. We deserve better.
Put into another perspective, what does it really cost, take or demand to conduct a generally accepted election devoid of any irregularities? Is it some sort of mystery that one cannot comprehend? Is the electoral body programmed to fail every now and again? For heaven sake! National examination bodies like the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), National Examination Council (NECO) and several others out there, conduct examinations every other year and these examinations involve almost the same logistic requirements as with elections, but the examination bodies have kept good account of themselves times without number unlike the electoral body.
Just like every election procedure, National Examinations involve the same process of candidate registration, issuance of student Identity card what we may refer to as the voters card during elections, publishing of registered students/candidates for the examination, what we may refer to as the voters register, external and internal invigilators what at elections we refer to as the electoral officials, the examination day proper, otherwise the election day and beyond that, the examination bodies go ahead to collect these scripts, sort them, send them to different states for marking and grading, return them back to the examination body for appropriate scrutiny before sending the results back to the different schools or the information portal of these bodies for the students to check-up their results but at the end of the day, they have performed above board unlike the electoral body and this is even with meager funds against what the INEC get to conduct elections.
Why is it that any process with political or economic connotation/interest in this clime, have always ended up in a mirage all through our political history? Electoral processes are nothing to write home about. The National population commission is every now and again in the eye of the storm because some political or economic interest is in contention. We have killed ourselves severally because of census figures, slaughtered, looted and burned our properties because of election results or in seeking to protect one interest or the other and the agencies responsible for frowning against such sharp practices, has helped the brains behind such ploys to achieve their inordinate and self-serving demands by refusing to keep her records straight in conducting a free and fair election or the Population commission, in seeking to protect or extend the hegemony of some region or the other, falsify or fail to include certain data in the conduct of a population censuses.
Back to the Anambra election, it is no longer news that election materials failed to arrive to certain wards because of one superficial reason or the other. The gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the election, has told everyone who care to listen how his name and that of his Father were suddenly missing in the voters register against what it was, when INEC had earlier sent the voters register to party officials for scrutiny, election materials not arriving in the perceived strong-hold of a candidate in the election, the postponement of election to a holy day of worship in a state where 98 percent of the indigenes are Christians and a concomitant of other factors is already a ground fertile enough, to regard the whole Anambra election as a sham because you don’t indirectly disenfranchise the electorates and expect that process to be adjudged as free and fair by any conscientious election Observer group or unbiased civil society group, much less the international community.
At law, the trite goes that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. Similarly, any electoral process with undue delay is enough to be written off as a flawed process automatically especially when the factor leading to the delay is as a result of the ineptitude of the umpire body. I know I was never good in Mathematics but what I am still unable to add up is the INEC Chairman admitting the complicity of one of its official in the election irregularities and yet still hoping to announce a result when he has already shot himself in the foot. Has he not given the aggrieved political parties in the polls a case, good enough to present before the election petition tribunals that will be attending to the marathon of suits that will be greeting this election? If the Chairman of an electoral body admits sharp-practices by its official, does it not rob the whole process of every credibility and acceptability?
Undoubtedly, Chief Willie Obiano of APGA will be taking the day but how can the leadership of APGA be ready to defend their victory in the courts (especially in the court of public opinion) and when did the courts become another arm of our electoral body? Nigeria must be one hell of a country!
Beyond that, with the sham that has already become of the Anambra election, how does the electoral body expect us to instill any confidence in them that they can deliver on a larger scale at the fast approaching general elections already hitting up the political space even before the election proper? The question now on the lips of Nigerians both in the home and in the Diaspora is: if INEC cannot get it right with a state of just 21 Local Government Areas and 326 wards, what will become of the situation when Nigerians finally troop out enmasse to vote at the2015 general elections? Your guess may be just as good as mine. Nothing good can come out of it except we want to muddle in delusions of grandeur.
As I write, the result of an election that commenced at 7AM on Saturday 16th November is yet to be announced, as to what could be the problem, even the gods do not know. Have they run short of calculators, statisticians, mathematicians and any other artisan responsible for the results to be collated and made known to the general public? Somebody should please help with these questions.
Is it not bad rubbish that even before the result is made public; the contenders in the poll except for the APGA camp have already declared that they have lost any confidence in the process? I, personally will not blame them as being in their shoes; I cannot help but to react almost in the same manner. Dr Chris Ngige is already calling for a fresh election, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah of the Labor Party (LP) is asking for a refund of his campaign expenditures and a fresh election and the chorus is almost the same in the PDP camp. But taking a look at the APGA camp, the calmness you are met with, speaks even louder than the noise you get in the opposition camp that the script is a well edited one. Accepted, I had wanted Chief Willie Obiano of APGA to emerge, but I never wanted him to do so through an illicit electoral process but recent developments, leaves me bewildered. No thanks to INEC’s complicity and double-dealings. How do I convincingly tell a friend that , yes, I had supported Willie Obiano and now the Man has won without being seen as a person of ill repute?
While it is only a starter or a politically naïve fellow that would not know in whose favor the results will terminate as soon as INEC decides to let us know more, our only prayer is: at the election petition tribunals that will soon be sitting, let the judges eschew indiscipline, attend to the facts and figures as they are and serve justice to any of the petitioners able to prove his case beyond doubt as they are the only institution that could heal the wounds Attahiru Jega and his minnows at INEC have dealt on us and our democracy.
Conclusively, the latest development in Anambra elections, should be an invitation to all of us, it should also serve as a heads-up to all of us to take a time out from the distraction of the G-7 governors, politics of Sovereign conference or whatever you may choose to call it, and look into our Electoral Laws and question some of its bogus provisions before the 2015 general election hits us. Attahiru Jega and Key officials of INEC must attend a senate plenary to explain to Nigerians what actually happened at the Anambra election when this whole madness abates and adequate sanctions made where possible.
This macabre dance by INEC has reached a climax and we cannot take more of their incompetence. It is either they do what is required of them and not just their beat, or accept incapability by resigning of their positions. Too many of us are miffed and obfuscated by their consistently inconsistent performance. It sucks!
The writer is an indigene of Anambra state and a Public Affairs Commentator. He is on twitter as @RayNkah
this writer must be awarded 4 dis submission bcos he actully put ppl opinion into writing
Good submission, the spoils started from d start. Perpetrated by d elder-states-men. We may know dem all if we dare reason.
Mr. Ray, many well learned Nigerians can comment nd tell d true history of Nigeria’s woes nd current problems. They have failed to say point blank the solutions. Eg. Who else to apoint as INEC chief.
U may also want to examine ur attitude here- did u shut ur ears to what Professor Jega actually said about the conduct of some of d staff of d commission? Just like many of diz selfish politicians.
Anyway sha, u can not conclude dat all pple of a particular setting r corrupt just bcos some of dem r.
Next time pls, I just dey pass.